Wednesday, October 13, 2010

(A side note: I’ve been very busy in my Istanbul kitchen this week. I made chocolate chip and snickerdoodle cookies, a flourless chocolate cake, grape jelly, tomato pasta sauce, a hearty winter beef stew and roasted a whole fish. Now, I have to start writing and posting. Stay tuned!)

Making jelly from scratch is a lot of work. It’s a job that requires you to roll up your sleeves, protect your white kitchen countertop from the exploding purple juices (when you’re working with grapes) and pray that you don’t burn yourself in the process.

I had never made jelly before, but I was up for the challenge. I remember both my grandmothers making jelly and then canning it as well as other fruits and vegetables. It was a hot, arduous process. Consider yourself lucky if you didn’t burn a fingertip or two by the end of the day. The reward was that you filled up your kitchen pantry/basement to make it through the winter months.

I do not have a pantry to stock up. But I do have time on my hands, and I just wanted to play in my kitchen.

Well, it took me 3 hours to make about 2 cups of jelly! Silly girl! But what else would I have done with all the grapes I bought at the pazar?

Well, I know what I used to do as a pastry chef. Every fall, we made countless quarts of Concord grape sorbet or some batches of pate’ de fruit at the restaurants. One year I made a version of a “PB & J” dessert with a toasted sesame seed ice cream and Concord grape sorbet. 
"PB & J Vacherin"
Well, my jelly making experience may be my first and the last. I just found it to be a lot of work for a little yield.

I’d be better off making wine from the grapes – if I knew how to do that! Next time, I think I’ll just buy the jelly at the store or from the Turkish ladies at the pazar.

Afiyet olsun!

Grape Jelly
(Adapted from a 1964 printing of “Joy of Cooking”)

2 # 4 oz.          Concord or similar grapes, rinsed
2          oz.       water
1          ea.       Granny Smith apple, cut into 8 pieces (The apple will provide pectin for the jelly.)

1. Place the grapes, water and apple in a 6-8 quart stock pot. Cover with a lid. Bring to a boil on high heat.
2. Once the fruits start getting soft, crush them with a long-handled potato masher. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Strain the fruit through a fine sieve, pressing down on the fruit to extract all the juice.
4. Let the pressed fruit hang in the sieve for 1 hour. Set aside. (I extracted about 4 more ounces of juice from this process.

Then:
2          c.         grape juice (from the previous steps)
1 ½      c.         granulated sugar

5. Place the juice and sugar into a 2-quart pot. Boil over high heat until the temperature (using a candy thermometer) reaches 220 F/104 C or until the jelly “sheets” from a spoon. This process took about 20-30 minutes for my jelly.
According to the “Joy of Cooking:”
“As the jelly thickens, two large drops will form along the edge of the spoon, one on either side. When these two drops come together and fall as a single drop, the sheeting stage has been reached.”
The sheeting stage of jelly.
6. Remove from heat. Pour the jelly into small glass jars and seal. Refrigerate the jars unless you want to try canning too.

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